Encyclopedia Articles

Ukrainian poet, 1939-
VOHON' KUPALA (The Fire of Kupalo)
Poems, 1966
A short-lived relaxation in the Soviet Union's nationalities policy in the early 1960s encouraged young writers to explore the cultural heritage of their various countries. Ihor Kalynets belongs to this generation of writers, many of whom later became dissidents.
     Kalynets began publishing his verse in Ukrainian journals in 1959. In 1964 it was announced that his first collection of poems, Kraina Koliadok (A Country of Carols), was ready for publication. It never appeared in print. Apparently, according to Bohdan Nahaylo, "the authorities decided that Kalynets's modernist poetry with its examination and affirmation of the roots of Ukrainian culture and its expression of grave concern over the indication of decay, was potentially too dangerous to tolerate". The poems from Kraina Koliadok and another unpublished collection, Ekskursii (Excursions), later formed the collection Vohon' Kupala (The Fire of Kupalo), which was published by the Kyiv publishing house Molod' (Youth ) in 1966, when there was a temporary relaxation of censorship restrictions. However, this first edition of Vohon' Kupala never reached readers because it was immediately proscribed and all the copies were confiscated. After the ban on Vohon' Kupala, Kalynets became officially unpublishable, and he joined the army of Ukrainian poets whose works were available only in underground samvydav (samizdat) editions.
     Vohon' Kupala is a collection of 35 poems, reflecting the poet's pride in Ukrainian culture and reaffirming Ukraine's ancient spiritual heritage. Kalynets seeks to connect the country's folklore and pagan traditions to modern life. The collection forms a hymn to the cleansing and invigorating fire that blazes during the midsummer pagan rite of Kupalo (St. John's Eve) as a symbol of the spiritual strength of the Ukrainian people. By drawing upon his country's mythic heritage and dedicating a number of poems to Ukraine's prominent cultural figures (the film director Oleksandr Dovzhenko, the violinist Oleh Krysa, the poets Bohdan Ihor Antonych, Taras Hryhorevych Shevchenko, and Pavlo Tychyna), Kalynets places himself within the context of the Ukrainian cultural tradition.
The verse forms in Vohon' Kupala are modernist, largely imitative of those developed by the Ukrainian avant-garde of the 1930s, especially Antonych. Kalynets's work is free of overt political themes but contains an implicit indictment of Soviet reality. The celebration of the riches of the Ukrainian cultural past stood in sharp contrast to the poet's lament for their current fate, which is one of decay and state-sponsored destruction. Thus, in the poem "Vitrazhi" (The Stained-Glass Windows), the poet, absorbed by contemplation of history in a church's windows, is brought down to earth by the realization that churches are being destroyed. The poems "Ikony" (Icons) and "Pysanky" (Easter Eggs) are meditations on the country's ancient traditions, respectively Christian and pagan. "Inna" is a lament for Ukrainian art, which has become Sovietized. The subject of the poem is Tychyna, one of Ukraine's most powerful poetic talents, who opted to conform to Soviet cultural policy.
     The fatal consequences that can follow one's disconnection from the national tradition are explicitly described in Kalynets's next three collections, Poezii z Ukrainy (1970, Poems from Ukraine), Pidsumovuiuchy Movchannia (1971, Summing Up Silence), and Koronuvannia Opudala (1972, The Crowning of a Scarecrow). All three of these, as well as subsequent collections, appeared in the West. Only Vohon' Kupala was reviewed in the poet's homeland.
     The first critical responses to Vohon' Kupala in Ukraine (for example, those by Ivan Zub and Ivan Svitlychnyi) were positive. Yet Kalynets's poetic originality could not find recognition in a country where artists were allotted a role as ideological mouthpieces of the Soviet regime. Iurii Smolych blamed Kalynets's poetry for containing "insinuations against the Soviet country" and found the poet's "nationalism" harmful for Ukraine. Smolych's evaluation of Kalynets's verse led to the poet's being blacklisted.
     In March 1971, the 24th Congress of the Communist Party of Ukraine denounced Kalynets's poetry as "reprehensible". He had compounded his political sins by allowing his work to be published abroad. Following this denunciation, Kalynets was indicted on the grounds that he "issues a veiled appeal to struggle against the Soviet government", "calls for a revival of the Uniate Church", "covertly presents the idea that the Ukrainian people is oppressed by the Soviet government", and "articulates a nationalist ideology, as well as nostalgia for the past and for an independent state". On 11 August 1972 a closed court convicted Kalynets of anti-Soviet activities and sentenced him to six years in labour camps and three years in exile.
     Kalynets continued to write poetry during his imprisonment, but afterwards remained silent until 1991, when a new book of verse, Trynadtsiat' Alohii (Thirteen Alogies; "alohia" is a Kalynets's whimsical name for a poem) was published. This year inaugurated a new, very prolific period in his poetic career. Among the most important selections published in the 1990s were Slovo Tryvaiuche (1997, The Word That Lasts) and Ternovyi Kolir Liubovi (1998, Thorny Color of Love).
     In 1993 Kalynets started poetic collaboration with his wife, Iryna Kalynets. This collaboration was announced by their first joint selection of poetry, Tse my, Hospody (It's Us, Lord). In 1992 Kalynets was honoured by the Shevchenko Prize, Ukraine's most prestigious literary award. Yet in Ukraine Kalynets's poetry remains largely unknown and unread. While its unavailability to earlier Ukrainian readers was caused by the depredations of the censors, today, according to Marko Pavlyshyn, it is caused by "the profundity of an economic crisis that has all but annihilated the domestic publication of 'high' literature'.
Svitlana Kobets
Vohon' Kupala (The Fire of Kupalo), 1966
Poezii z Ukrainy (Poems from Ukraine), 1970
Pidsumovuiuchy Movchannia (Summing Up Silence), 1971
Koronuvannia Opudala (The Crowning of a Scarecrow), 1972
Spohad pro Svit (Reminiscences about the World), in Vyzvol'nyi Shliakh, 26/5 (April-May 1973); 27/1 (January 1974); 27/5 (May 1974)
Nevol'nycha Muza (Prisoner's Muse), 1991
"Pidsumovuiuchy Movchannia" (interview with Serhii Kozak), Literaturna Ukraina (5 Septermber 1991)
Probudzhena muza (Muse Awakened), 1991
Trynadtsiat' Alohii: Poezii (Thirteen Alogies), 1997
Vbyvstvo tysiacholitn'oi davnosti (A Thousand Year Old Murder: by Iryna Kalynets) and Molimos' zoriam dal'nim (Let's Pray to Far-Away Stars: by Ihor Kalynets), 1997
Ternovyi Kolir Liubovi (Thorny Color of Love), 1998
Further Reading
Luckyj, George S. N. (editor), The Discordant Voices: The Non-Russian Soviet Literatues, 1953-1973, Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1975
Nahaylo, Bohdan, "Profile: Ihor Kalynets", Index on Censorship, 10/1 (February 1981)
Pavlyshyn, Marko, "Anatomizing Melancholy: The Poetry of Ihor Kalynets", Jounal of Ukrainian Studies, 18/1-2 (Summer-Winter 1993)
Pelekh, Uliana, "Ihor Kalynets: poet tradytsionalizmu" (Ihor Kalynets: Poet of Traditionalism), Novi Dni, 9-10 (1983): 403-404
Salyha, Taras, "Ioho Ternovyi Vohon': Shtrykhy do Literaturnoi Sylvety Ihoria Kalyntsia" (His Crown of Thorns: Creating a Literary Silhouette of Ihor Kalynets), Dzvin, 9-10 (1992)
Struk, Danylo Husar, "The Summing Up of Silence: The Poetry of Ihor Kalynets", Slavic Review, 1 (1979)
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